May 6, 2016
Academics, artists collaborate on UW book arts exhibit ‘Just One Look’
A dark-haired girl, rendered in angular figures of copper against black as if from ancient Greece, hauls mightily on a water jug, following her mistress. But look closer: The girl’s eyes are squeezed shut in effort — it’s a tough job.
This is “A Woman’s Work,” one of 32 colorful and creative artist books on display as part of the exhibit “Just One Look,” in University of Washington Libraries’ Special Collections department, in Allen Library. The exhibit, featuring local, regional and national artists, was co-curated by UW alumna Lauren Dudley with Sandra Kroupa, UW Libraries’ well-known book arts and rare book curator.
The exhibited books resulted from collaborations between artists and faculty members in the humanities, many from the UW. “A Woman’s Work,” inspired by figures on Greek vases, was created by former student Emma Schulte, who studied ancient Greek vase painting with Kathryn Topper, UW associate professor of classics. The work also was inspired by “The Athenian Woman: An Iconographic Handbook,” by Sian Lewis of the University of St. Andrews. The book’s scenes unfold accordion-style, speaking to the question: What would Greek faces look like if they showed the work Greek women actually did?
Each book in the exhibit was similarly inspired by a text that was suggested, in most cases, by UW faculty from UW Humanities areas, including classics, English, Asian languages, Germanics, art history, Jewish studies and philosophy. Oral stories from the Salish, Muslim and Latino cultures are also included.
For co-curator — and donor — Dudley, who selected the texts submitted by faculty for assignment to book artists, mostly on commission, the collaboration between artists and academics was crucial to the potency of the exhibit.
“I’m interested in how creativity manifests over a variety of disciplines, so I really like seeing how everyone in this show, whether submitting a text or making a book, does a lot research and a lot of deep thinking,” said Dudley. “I love to see that cross-collaboration, and I think it was very rewarding for the new faculty who hadn’t experienced artist books.”
Kroupa, who has curated decades of book arts exhibits, said she was impressed with the flexibility the assignments gave the artists to proceed “absolutely without any boundaries.” She provided the list of book artists for Dudley to consider — many being artists Kroupa had worked with for many years — and arranged the exhibit’s physical layout.
Commissions usually come with specific instructions as to content, length or tone, Kroupa said, but in this case she advised the artists, “Just read the story and let your mind go wherever it wants.” Some ventured into styles and media they’d never used before.
That suited Dudley: “As a producer — and this is not the only complicated event I have worked on — I like to put people in a position where they are pushing themselves a little bit,” she said.
The exhibit was created as a component to the upcoming Feminism and Classics VII conference — called FemCon for short — to be held May 19-22 at the HUB. There, scholars in classics will gather from around the county to discuss the theme of “vision in — and visions of — the ancient Mediterranean world.” Alongside the book art pieces in Special Collections are videos about the exhibit and the conference theme, produced by Dudley.
She said, “The classics department was in fact the genesis of this whole exhibit. They asked me if I’d be willing to do something in conjunction with what they call FemCon, so Sandra and I will do a lunchtime presentation, and then we’ll bring them to the exhibit.”
- Also related is a public lecture by Laila Lalami, professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, and author of “The Moor’s Account,” at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 7, in Room 250 of the HUB. Lalami’s topic will be “Creativity, Art and Scholarship: The Research and Writing of ‘The Moor’s Account.'”
All of the artist books in “Just One Look” — many one-of-a-kind items — will become part of the UW’s book arts collection, now with over 21,000 pieces both historical and modern.
And as for the hard-working girl in Schulte and Topper’s Greek-themed “A Woman’s Work,” the piece is a particular favorite of Catherine Connors, chair of the Department of Classics, where all this began.
“When I bring people here,” Connors said of the exhibit, “what they see is a tremendously intense and vital process of reading, and responding … and also what I hear is their response to the dimension of time — the time it took to make each of these artifacts, these amazing things.
“We spend a lot of time in classics reading the books that we read — what we do takes a lot of time,” she said. “And to see someone else being equally intense about the storytelling that we engage in is very exciting.”
“Just One Look” continues through Friday, July 29. The exhibit is hosted by UW Libraries and conference by the UW Department of Classics and the Libraries; both are also sponsored by the Simpson Center for the Humanities.
For more information, contact Kroupa at 206-685-3248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.